By: Scott Weinberg, reprinted from the Sundance Film Festival, 1/21/09
I'd heard a few unpleasant rumblings regarding the Sundance title Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, in addition to numerous opinions on how the source material (a collection of stories by the late David Foster Wallace) had been labeled more or less "unfilmable." But that's pretty much the same stuff I heard about a Sundance title from last year called Choke ... and I ended up really liking that flick. Plus, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men marks the directorial debut of the very likable John Krasinski (yep, good ol' lovable Jim from The Office), AND it boasts a very colorful cast, a scant running time, and a premise that sounds pretty interesting.
But ... unfortunately I'm going to side with the "unfilmable" naysayers this time out, because, despite a few (early) sections that deliver some chuckles alongside some slight-yet-interesting insights into the male psyche, much of Mr. Krasinski's first feature is an aimless, pretentious mess. Well-intentioned? Sure. Intermittently entertaining? I suppose. But a full-bore movie movie? I'd say no.
The title is pretty accurate: Our lead character is a lovely graduate student played by the lovely Julianne Nicholson, and it's her goal to delve deep into the male personality ... exactly WHY we're not entirely sure, and as the interviews progress, a viewer would be hard-pressed to see the value in these self-serving diatribes. The movie wants to be some sort of Vagina Monologues for Males (the Penis Debates?), but aside from the few interviews that are played for laughs, the material is considerably more grating than it is insightful.